Totally agree on the T61p part. You can get a T61p with 15.4" screen (WUXGA or WSXGA+), Penryn Core 2 Duo Processor, Nvidia Quadro 570m workstation graphics card, etc all for $1500 or less with coupons.
Yeah, it's worth it. This isn't some consumer trash that'll last a year and break, I've used decade old Thinkpads that still worked good as new, and was issued a 6 year old 600E at my old job that looked like it'd never been used (other than the shiny keys).
The first time something breaks, it's worth it.
I had an R60 where the bottom plastic piece had a crack in it and the LCD's bezel snapped at a screw. They sent someone out to replace both of them, didn't have to do anything (actually, Lenovo wouldn't send out the parts as they're not listed as customer replacable...but I had everything taken apart for when the guy got here).
As far as accidental goes, up to you. I went ahead and bought it on my T61P....but I would never settle for anything less than the next business day in-home.
I work with a ton of biz clients that need CAD effects, and the T61p takes the cake. As another solution, check with a T61. It won't be as top of the line as the T61p, but it will still have similar features.
As in locations to pick one of the t61's up, MicroCenter seems to stock them on location if you have one close to you.